1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
When tyrants are overthrown the nations of the earth breathe freely; from prince to peasant all rejoice, and every heart is raised to heaven, and hallelujahs go up to the throne of God, and the Prince of Peace is blessed for bringing back hope to the world, and driving fear from its dwellings.
I. "The sting of death is SIN." The shame and the deformity of guilt, the degradation of a nature fallen from the image of God, the pains of remorse — these are some of the forms in which death stings the soul through sin; and who that has seen the terror-stricken conscience craving a few more days of life.
II. But what if death cannot sting the soul in the hour of its last life-trial, it can surely sting THE HEART. "All that a man hath will he give for his life"; it is sad to part with this. To leave the work of our hands for others to perfect, to give up our pleasant ministry and all the rewards that went with it, surely this is bitter, and herein at least death has for a moment its victory and its sting. Such is not the experience of faithful hearts, hearts which have been taught that "to live is Christ and to die is gain"; who have learnt that if to abide in the flesh be pleasant for the sake of those who remain, to depart and be with Christ is far better.
III. Let it be granted, then, that death has no sting for the soul of the Christian, nor can he fasten his sharp fangs upon the heart which is taught of the Spirit of God. But what of THE BODY? Can we look upon that thin frame so worn that the very mother scarcely knows her own child, and then deny that death at least can torture the body if it cannot torment the soul of the faithful? When death laid his hand upon the Son of God, and saw His body, weary with watching and worn out with persecution and agony, sink under the burden of His Cross, and then lifted up and nailed through His tender hands and feet to the tree He was too weak to carry, He may have cried in triumph, "Behold, the sting of death!" And yet it was that very agony that enabled His Victim and His Conqueror to say as He gave up the ghost, "It is finished." When the faithful heart is taught by grace how glorious it is to be made partaker of the sufferings of Christ, that its pains are not sent in wantonness, but to remind it of its Redeemer's power to help and presence to heal, that every pang that waits on the soul's last struggle to be free is another step towards the liberty it so desires, then the sense of physical suffering is swallowed up in the prospect of what lies so nigh.
IV. But if the sting of death affects the dying Christian himself neither in body nor in spirit, there are surviving hearts in tears and deep sadness. Here, then, is THE STING OF DEATH PIERCING THE SOULS OF THE LIVING, if it has no torment for the dying.
V. Death then retires before the power of faith and acknowledges that its power is gone, the sharpness of its sting made void. But THE GRAVE! there is the victory; there is the curse carried out to its humbling accomplishment; "dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return." Alas, how are the mighty fallen! humbled indeed to the dust and brought down to the dwelling of the worm! O grave, great is thy victory, if this be all of what was once so great and dear and beautiful and good. But is it all? What do we read? "It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption," etc.
(A. J. Macleane, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?